DOH targets malaria-free Palawan by 2020

By Celeste Anna Formoso

November 30, 2017, 12:31 pm

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- The Department of Health (DOH)-MIMAROPA is optimistic that the province of Palawan can attain its target of being malaria-free by 2020, said Regional Director Dr. Eduardo Janairo.

Janairo, who is in this city for the National Malaria Awareness Day-9th Malaria Congress, said Wednesday morning the province might already be malaria-free by next year because the DOH-MIMAROPA is certain to give “all out support” to attain the target.

“Yes, we hope we can achieve that. There is a possibility that it might be achieved, especially next year because we will give all the support. We don’t care whether fund is from foreign-assisted project or local-assisted project but MIMAROPA Region will do something about that. We will put funds into it,” Janairo told the Philippine News Agency.

The regional health director added it is about time “everybody should be worried about malaria” as the Philippines has experienced it for so many years.

“We have malaria for so many years… generations… hundreds of years… and until now, the focus that is given still seem minimal. The simple way to get rid of it is for people to mobilize themselves, and to maintain a clean environment,” he added.

It also has to be understood that malaria’s eradication can be partly caused by development or urbanization, he said.

“But we have to understand that malaria… its elimination is development, or urbanization. All areas in Manila used to have malaria in the past. But now it has almost zero malaria because the breeding areas are no longer conducive for them. Change of environment can cause removal of malaria,” he explained.

However, he said that in MIMAROPA, particularly in Palawan, there is no need to change the environment. The only need is for residents to keep them clean.

Janairo said malaria prevention methods that are due for implementation by the regional health office are the fitting of all public and private school windows with screens, and the regular conduct of airborne spraying of insect repellent compounds to control mosquito population.

The other prevention method is the conduct of blood testing or smearing for malaria parasite on all population to ensure they are disease-free, he furthered.

“You cannot say that a person has no malaria unless he/she is tested. Here in Palawan, if you think that a person has no malaria because he/she is not showing symptoms, you can still be wrong as there are asymptomatic cases,” Janairo stated, adding they have proven it.

“We have to test each and every inhabitant in Palawan for malaria, and the other provinces in MIMAROPA,” he stated.

According to Palawan’s control program Kilusan Ligtas Malaria (KLM), an estimated 53,451 cases of malaria with 85 deaths were recorded in 1999.

By 2014, the figure downgraded to 4,206 cases with five mortalities, but increased again to 7,437 in 2015 with 13 deaths. All would amount to 86 percent decrease in cases, and the same percentage in deaths.

From January to November this year, the KLM recorded again a 41 percent decrease or 3,400 cases out of 146,256 tested compared to the same period in 2016 that logged 6,136 cases.

The top five municipalities with the highest cases of malaria this year are Rizal with 1,294; Balabac with 686; Bataraza with 656; Brooke’s Point with 360 and Quezon with 142 – all in southern Palawan. In Puerto Princesa, 91 cases were still recorded.

No case has been documented in the municipalities of Busuanga, Culion, Coron, and Linapacan in the Calamianes Islands Group in the northern part of the province.

“Despite this, we still cannot say these towns are malaria-free. We need to validate,” Janairo said.

For the province’s malaria control program, eradication will no longer be a problem if residents stop health-seeking behavior or belief in traditional healers, poor compliance to diagnosis and treatment protocol, and self-medication.

Something must be done too, on language barrier, on the belief that malaria is a natural phenomenon and is God’s plan, and using different names during case surveillance. (PNA)